Friday, May 31, 2024

Celebrating 50 years of musical excellence: The School of Music at UTSA

Celebrating 50 years of musical excellence: The School of Music at UTSA

Joe Steussy (former director of the Division of Music) and Alan Craven (former director of the Division of English, Classics and Philosophy) put the finishing touches on the UTSA Alma Mater in January of 1982.

MAY 30, 2024 — This year, UTSA celebrates the 50th anniversary of its School of Music, a milestone that honors its long-standing legacy and influence in music in higher education.

Making its debut as the Division of Music in 1974, the school has been a pivotal source of music education in San Antonio, offering a wide range of programs that produce performing artists, music educators, composers and scholars. To date, the school, which is housed in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts, has awarded Roadrunners more than 1,500 music degrees.

Director Gordon Lamb’s arrival in 1974 marked the founding of the division. Under his leadership, the division began offering a range of graduate courses, including music education, conducting, and chamber choir. Its first degree program, the Bachelor of Music Education, diversified its curriculum to include various specializations and graduated its first class of students in 1977.

By 1980, the university had received official accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). The division migrated into the newly created Arts building on Main Campus in 1982. In 1989, Associate Professor Emeritus David Sebald created one of the first music technology programs in the country.

“I have looked back fondly at all of the talented students and colleagues who worked to build a school of music at a Tier One university.”

Gordan Lamb (the first director of the UTSA Division of Music) conducts the UTSA Chamber Chorale during the 1976-1977 school year.

“When I joined the UTSA faculty in 1980, there were four buildings on campus and nothing but wooded land at the corner of De Zavala and IH-10. It is incredible how much we have achieved over the decades,” said Professor Emeritus John Silantien, who served as director of choral activities. “Upon my retirement 38 years later, I have looked back fondly at all of the talented students and colleagues who worked to build a school of music at a Tier One university.”

The 1990s and 2000s brought further evolution to the division, such as the opening of the Institute for Music Research in 1991, which aims to advance knowledge through research in the areas of music psychology, music teaching and learning, and music technology by supporting the research of the UTSA music faculty. During this time, UTSA also underwent a major academic restructuring, shifting the Division of Music into the Department of Music. Into the 2000s, the department introduced new programs and certificates, which, coupled with the establishment of a marching band and a dance curriculum in 2011, reflected the department's growth and commitment to music education. 

In 2022, the Department of Music transitioned into the School of Music, a strategic enhancement that aligns UTSA with other prestigious music schools nationally, elevating its status and increasing its appeal to potential students by promising a comprehensive education that melds artistry with professional preparedness. And this year, the school established a Bachelor of Arts in Commercial and Digital Music degree program, in response to new methodologies in contemporary music and in keeping with the school’s mission to prepare students who will be ready to work in the commercial music industry upon graduating. 

“The School of Music at UTSA is committed to continuing our strong legacy of cultivating artists and bringing joy and meaning to others through music,” said Tracy Cowden, director of the School of Music.

The School of Music’s impact extends beyond the classroom to its contributions to the cultural framework of San Antonio and beyond through lifelong learning opportunities for young children and up to older adults — through programs like the UTSA String Project, the On-Corps band program for veterans, and a legacy of arts organizations that are led by UTSA music alumni.  

The School of Music also engages with the community through UTSA Arts, an organized unit dedicated to community arts education, public-facing performances and exhibitions, and arts-based research and partnerships to enhance the accessibility of the arts for the general public. Through UTSA Arts, the School of Music provides public experiences such as the “En Vivo Concert Series” and the school’s New Music Festival.

Learn more about UTSA Arts.

The UTSA Lyric Theatre's performance of the Concerto and Aria Winners concert took place in February.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the School of Music scheduled a series of special performances, including productions by the UTSA Lyric Theatre such as “The Verdi Project” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The School of Music, which shares the anniversary with COLFA’s School of Art, will join the School of Art for a grand celebration at the Tobin Center later this year. 

“The 50th anniversary of UTSA’s School of Art and School of Music marks a seminal moment in our history, reflecting half a century of remarkable contributions to arts education in San Antonio,” said Glenn Martinez, dean of COLFA. “This milestone symbolizes our enduring commitment to nurturing the creative talents that enrich the San Antonio community and shape the future of arts in south Texas and internationally.”

Nick Ward

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